The Big Dry Arm Spring Storm in the Great Basin Red Cliffs Desert Tortoise Reserve March Morning on the Platte River After a Spring Storm in the Great Basin Hunting Upland Birds at Kingsbury Lake Waterfowl Production Area Sandhill Migration on the Platte River Badlands Sunrise The Green River at Ouray NWR North Park Lupines Moab Sunset

Partners for Fish & Wildlife - South Dakota


Overview | Accomplishments | South Dakota PFW Strategic Plan | Contact Us | Open / Close All

Aerial survey of prairie potholes. Credit: USFWS.

Aerial view of a prairie pothole complex. Credit: USFWS.

The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in South Dakota uses a “grass roots” philosophy to develop partnerships and programs that simultaneously promote wildlife conservation and profitable agriculture.

The South Dakota Partners Program has utilized this philosophy to voluntarily restore, enhance, and establish tens of thousands of acres of grassland and wetland habitats with landowners throughout the state. A common thread through every South Dakota Partners project is the ability to be flexible and responsive enough to accommodate the site-specific needs and concerns of landowners. Since 1991, this approach has resulted in approximately 7,000 South Dakota landowners becoming valued Partners for Fish and Wildlife partners, and the number of new landowner requests for assistance continues to grow.

Overview »

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South Dakota Activities | Priorities | Long-Term Goals | Habitats | Conservation Strategies | Partners

Aerial survey of prairie potholes. Credit: USFWS.

Wetland restored by the SD PFW program. Credit: USFWS.

South Dakota Activities

The four most common conservation practices implemented by the South Dakota PFW program include wetland restoration, grassland enhancement, grassland restoration, and riparian enhancement.

  • Wetland restorations primarily consist of closing drainage ditches with earthen plugs.
  • Grassland enhancement via managed grazing systems are predominately implemented in native grassland tracts containing wetlands. Four cell, twice-over grazing systems are one of the more common grazing configurations. In these systems, grazing units are split into four pastures and each pasture is grazed twice through the course of the grazing season.
  • Grassland restoration primarily involves seeding of cropland back to a mixture of native grasses and forbs. Typically, 10 to 15 species of native grasses and forbs are used in the seed mix. Once the grassland is fully restored, these sites often are utilized as pasture.
  • Riparian enhancement projects typically involve fencing of streams or riparian areas to exclude livestock during key portions of the growing season.  Alternative livestock watering sources such as pipelines, tanks and solar panels are often installed in conjunction with the riparian exclusions.


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We work with a wide variety of partners to implement high priority wetland and grassland conservation projects. Partnerships with livestock owners to conserve grasslands are particularly important. This priority scheme is consistent with and fulfills the implementation priorities of a wide variety of established conservation plans including the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture Implementation Pan, and Partners in Flight. For example, the Partners in Flight plan for western South Dakota states, "Maintenance of a ranching economy here is compatible with the needs of grassland birds and should be the highest conservation priority."

Long-Term Goals

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In general, the long-term goal of the South Dakota Partners Program is to promote a sustainable future for rural communities, landowners and wildlife alike by restoring, enhancing, and conserving high priority wetland and grassland habitats.


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Floodplain. Credit: USFWS.

Migrating ducks on the Big Sioux River floodplain. Credit: USFWS.

In terms of wildlife conservation efforts, a defining feature of South Dakota’s landscape is the unique mix of native grasslands and wetlands. The Prairie Pothole Region of eastern South Dakota contains over 900,000 unique wetlands and over 5 million acres of native prairie. These wetlands host a wide variety of breeding birds including waterfowl. For example, much of eastern South Dakota hosts over 20 breeding duck pairs per square mile and certain areas host over 100 breeding duck pairs per square mile. In addition, the Prairie Coteau in the northeast portion of South Dakota’s Pothole Region contains some of the largest remaining tracts of northern tallgrass prairie in the nation. The western portion of the South Dakota Pothole Region is characterized by the Missouri Coteau which has been documented to host some of the highest breeding duck densities in all of North America. The western portions of South Dakota are characterized by large tracts of mixed and short grass native prairie that also contain many wetland and riparian features. A wide variety of peer-reviewed literature has documented that these western landscapes are also extremely productive for many breeding bird populations.

Conservation Strategies

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Wagner grass tour. Credit: USFWS.

SD PFW grazing management project. Credit: USFWS.

The primary conservation strategy of the South Dakota Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program is to work with partner groups and landowners to foster actions that jointly further landscape conservation and profitable agriculture. The cornerstone of this philosophy is based on locally-led conservation.

Consistent with this philosophy, the South Dakota Partners Program tailors projects to facilitate both natural resource conservation and profitable agriculture. For example, wetland projects often provide waterfowl production, watershed restoration, and livestock water benefits, all on the same site. Likewise, managed grazing systems help to simultaneously enhance, bird production, native prairie health and livestock performance. Furthermore, native grassland restorations provide immediate benefits to all guilds of ground nesting birds and are also valued by ranchers as grazing land. With the vast majority of South Dakota’s land in private ownership, these types of "win-win" projects are essential to an effective ecosystem conservation effort.

FY 2017–2021 Targets:

  • 800 Private Landowner Agreements
  • 1,520 new conservation partnerships
  • Restore/enhance 145,100 upland acres
  • Restore/enhance 1,390 wetland acres


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Wagner grass tour. Credit: USFWS.

Tour of a managed grazing system. Credit: USFWS.

  • Private Landowners
  • South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts
  • South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks
  • South Dakota Department of Agriculture
  • 68 County Conservation Districts
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • The Conservation Fund
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
  • South Dakota Izaak Walton League
  • 9 Native American Tribes
  • Pheasants Forever
  • Northern Prairies Land Trust
  • East Dakota Water Development District
  • USFWS Internal Partners
  • South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources
  • South Dakota Grassland Coalition
  • Ducks Unlimited
  • Belle Fourche River Watershed Partnership
  • Prairie Pothole Joint Venture
  • Northern Great Plains Joint Venture

Accomplishments »

Wetland restored by the SD PFW program. Credit: USFWS.

Wetland restored by the SD PFW program. Credit: USFWS.

FY 2020 Habitat Accomplishments

  • Upland Acres: 53,108 acres
  • Wetland Acres: 1,465 acres
  • River/Riparian Miles: 0 restored or enhanced
  • South Dakota Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program worked with 128 landowners throughout FY 2020.

FY 1987-2020 Cumulative Habitat Accomplishments

  • Upland Acres: 1,649,551 acres
  • Wetland Acres: 48,206 acres
  • River/Riparian Miles: 39 miles
  • The South Dakota Partners for Fish and Wildlife program has completed 8,390 projects with private landowners throughout the state


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South Dakota PFW Strategic Plan »

Contact Us »

State Coordinator

Kurt Forman
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 247
Suite 520-B
3rd Avenue North
Brookings, SD 57006
(605) 697-2500

Assistant State Coordinator


Private Lands Biologists

Jen Briggs
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Madison Wetland Management District
P.O. Box 48   
Madison, SD 57042
(605) 256-2974

Jesse Lisburg
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
420 South Garfield Avenue
Pierre, SD 57501   
(605) 224-8693 ext. 237

Joe Nichols
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery 
423 Hatchery Circle
Spearfish, SD 57783   
(605) 642-7730 ext. 212

Al Olson
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge
39650 Sand Lake Drive
Columbia, SD 57433
(605) 885-6284 ext. 222

Chuck Pyle
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Huron Wetland Management District
Federal Building, Room 309   
200 4th Street, SW
Huron, SD  57350
(605) 352-5894 ext. 113

Steve Spawn
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Lake Andes National Wildlife Refuge
38672 291st Street
Lake Andes, SD 57356

Tom Wickstrom
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Waubay National Wildlife Refuge
44401 134A Street
Waubay, SD 57273
(605) 947-4521

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The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
Last modified: October 05, 2020
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
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